Plants have a complex structure, and various processes constantly take place inside them – if desired, they can be turned into tools for performing various technical tasks. For example, because of their tendency to absorb water and molecules dissolved in it, scientists can use them as chemical sensors, or make them suitable for growth in the harsh conditions of Mars. Researchers at the University of Melbourne recently demonstrated a completely new way of transforming plants into technological tools.
Scientists have previously managed to create nanobionic plants capable of generating energy and even detecting explosives. To do this, they used carbon nanotubes, but in the new study, the scientists decided to try a completely different class of materials – metal-organic framework structures (MOF).
They are composed of metal ions and organic molecules, and are crystalline. They are considered ideal for capturing carbon as well as filtering water and various chemicals. Unfortunately, the scaffold structures are too large to be embedded in the plant, but the researchers have made it so that they form right inside the plant.
To do this, they placed plant parts in water in which the constituent elements of the MOF were dissolved. Having penetrated into the plants in the process of absorbing water, the elements combined into full-fledged structures and proved their efficiency. For example, they gave plants access to more light for photosynthesis and began to protect them from ultraviolet radiation.
All these properties can be extremely useful when a person begins to colonize Mars and decides to grow a crop on it. Even crops can be grown this way, according to researcher Joseph Richardson.
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